Authorities in Australia have seized a record 755 kg of crystal methamphetamine (ice) uncovered inside a shipment of raw animal hides.
As the largest onshore seizure of ice originating from Mexico, Australian Federal Police (AFP) confirmed on Thursday they have charged a 42-year-old Mexican national who allegedly organised the importation on behalf of an international crime syndicate.
With an estimated street value of 566.3 million Australian dollars (381 million U.S. dollars), the operation began on Aug. 13 when a freight of 18 pallets of frozen, raw and untreated cow skins arrived in Sydney labelled “Salty Bovine Skin Cuero Verde Salado De Bovino”.
Under closer examination, Australian Border Force (ABF) officers detected 161 silver packages of a suspicious white substance hidden within the skin.
Forensic testing later determined the packages contained high-grade crystal methamphetamine.
“Hiding drugs in untreated cow hides presented a significant biological hazard for AFP and ABF members extracting it,” said AFP Commander and State Manager for Victoria and Tasmania Amanda Kates.
“It once again shows organized criminal syndicates have no conscience or care for those they are targeting with their illegal products.
“These syndicates rely on human suffering at all stages of their activities; this occurs at the supply end in Mexico, through to the harm suffered by users and their families here in Australia.”
She said that consuming drugs are helping organised crime to flourish.
On Wednesday, AFP officers executed two search warrants at properties in Melbourne linked to the man who was charged.
Now facing the prospect of life imprisonment under Australian law if found guilty, ABF Regional Commander of Victoria and Tasmania State Craig Palmer said the arrest could not have been made without vital information gained from intelligence work.
“This is the fourth major detection of ice in just three months. It comes just two months after the country’s largest ever onshore methamphetamine consignment here in Melbourne – 1.6 tonnes concealed in stereo speakers.